What is ICARUS?

ICARUS, short for 'International Cooperation for animal Research Using Space', is a global collaboration of animal scientists to establish a satellite based infrastructure for earth observation of small objects such as migratory birds, bats, or sea turtles.


ICARUS will help solve two major enigmas in biology: we need to understand

  • the ontogeny of behavioral and movement traits of animals in the wild, and
  • the selection acting on individuals in the wild (i.e., where, why and when do individuals die)

ICARUS will also provide a seeing-eye dog for humankind. We will use the evolved senses of animals for remote sensing. Examples are:

  • Disaster forecast via animals
  • Health and disease (Avian Influenza, Foot and Mouth Disease, Ebola)
  • Ecosystem services (pollination, pest control, seed dispersal)
  • Conservation (dispersal & conservation of endangered species)
  • Global change (habitat shifts, desertification, glacial melts)
  • Discovery of unknown migrations

Icarus initiative: Wildlife Observation from Space

How does ICARUS work?

  • Data collection in black-box-logger on individual small animals including GPS, 3D-acceleration and other sensors
  • Autonomous energy supply (solar cell in combination with rechargeable batteries)
  • On board processing, data reduction, and selection of relevant data
  • Transmission of small data packages to LEO satellite (about 400MHz transmission using 3 receiving antennas)
  • CDMA coding of signal and data
  • Decoding of signal on board of satellite, downlink to ground station (15kg for receiver at 110W)
  • Data distribution and storage via Movebank

Next steps of ICARUS

  •  ICARUS will fly experimentally on the International Space Station (ISS)
  • October 2017 Launch
  • 2017-18 Testing phase with pre-selected projects
  • 2019 Opening ICARUS for the scientific community

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